Now that the rush of spring performances is over, it’s summer intensive season! Whether you’re travelling to a summer program or taking advantage of the opportunities in your home town, the summer vacation offers an excellent opportunity to ramp up your training and push yourself to the next level. With all the hard work you’re about to dive into, how can you make sure you have the endurance to make it through the long days and meet those high expectations? Here are my four tips:
Water. Drink more of this. So much more. Especially if you’re travelling to a program with a higher temperature, less humidity, or higher altitude. Your body absolutely must be hydrated to perform at its best. Sports drinks are full of sugar, and sodas have no nutritional benefit whatsoever. Even juice has sugar, so water is your best bet to help keep your energy levels high.
If you absolutely hate the taste of plain water (and be prepared for the tap water at a new location to taste different from what you’re used to) you can add slices of fruit or cucumber to add flavor. Bring a water bottle to class. A couple of quick sips at a drinking fountain between classes probably won’t be enough to keep your body at its top level.
There is one time I don’t think water is the best choice: right after your classes and rehearsals end for the day. If you consume dairy, I recommend chocolate milk as your recovery drink. It has just as many electrolytes as sports drinks, plus calcium and protein.
Food. Eat this. I know you know that food is fuel and you can’t dance well without feeding yourself well. I also know some of you have plans of returning to you
r studio in the fall with a noticeably different body. If you’re using your summer intensive to kick off healthier eating habits, I’m cheering you on. But I don’t think summer int
ensives are the ideal time to significantly alter your diet. You’re going to be expending more energy than you’re used to, so you need to keep your caloric intake fairly high. The m
ental load in classes is also going to be higher, and if you don’t eat well it will be hard for your brain to keep up with all the information you’re being offered. A radical change in diet can also lead to a radical change in your digestive system and you really don’t want to be the gassy one in pas de deux class. You can trust me on this one. Healthy choices–yes. Big major changes–probably better to wait until after your intensive ends.
Rest. First of all, try to get enough sleep. This can be hard if you’re staying in a dorm, but try. Even if you’re up late watching variations on YouTube or hangi
ng out with new friends, there are ways to take advantage of the time you aren’t in classes. Put your feet up for ten minutes every night. I don’t mean up on a footstool, I mean all the way up. Get those puppies up against a wall and let gravity help your lymphatic system clear things out. Roll out your tight spots while you’re talking (texting) with friends. Foam rollers are great but can be bulky and take up your entire suitcase. Smaller rollers and rolling pins are easier to pack (Cheval Dancewear even offers one: https://chevaldancewear.com/simple-rollers/) and a tennis ball will even fit in your airline-approved “personal item.” Ice is also going to be part of your evening rest. Ice packs, ice baths, and cold showers all make a big difference after long days. I know a soak in a hot tub sound amazing but if you’re sore all over, just danced for six hours, and have six more tomorrow a cold shower will benefit you more.
Relaxation. If you have a day off (or a week or a month), take the time off. Go to the pool or a movie with friends. Take a walk with your parent. Try a n
ew hobby. Read something just for fun. I know you want to dance all day every day but breaks are good for you. Your body needs a rest. Your relationships with friends and family need nurturing. Soak up all the beautiful things summer has to offer (popsicles and a gorgeous sunset, anyone?). The time you spend not dancing will come back to reward you later. That afternoon when you watched a kid joyfully race into the ocean might become how your Juliet races to Romeo. That morning you spent fishing with your grandpa might show up again when your Siegfried first spies the swans on the lake. After all that hard work and hydration and healthy food choices and rolling out the tightest spots ever, it’s okay to enjoy your not-dancing time as well.
I am so excited for you to see what you can accomplish this summer! (Hint: it’s more than you realize.) If you need me, I’ll be experimenting with new lemonade recipes and breaking in my new hammock.
Chelsea Weidmann is a Salt Lake City-based ballet teacher. She is an ABT® Certified Teacher, recently earned her MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts, and has published in the Journal of Dance Education. You can keep up with Chelsea through her website www.geekyballerina.com